August 9: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Readings: 1 Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51
This Sunday we continue our reflection on the bread of life discourse in Chapter Six of John’s Gospel. The First reading from the Book of Kings is an account of an event that happened around 850 years before Jesus. Israel was ruled by a weak king, Ahab. He had married a Canaanite, named Jezebel and then converted to her religion, which was essentially a Canaanite fertility cult. Elijah, the prophet, challenged the king’s behavior and caused a movement that led to the killing of the cult priests. He therefore became an enemy of the queen who threatened to have him killed. Elijah was broken and afraid. He therefore began to flee to Mount Horeb to ask God for help. Along the way in the desert, he gave up and prayed for his death. God sent a messenger with bread and water. This gave him the courage to continue the long journey. The bread seems to foreshadow the Eucharist and its power to keep us faithful on our personal journey to God. Just as the Lord drew Elijah to Mount Sinai, we too are drawn to the mountain of the Lord where the Father strengthens us by the living bread from heaven, namely, the Body and Blood of Christ. Thus in the Gospel passage we are invited to a new level of awareness; a deeper spiritual relationship with Jesus, who is our bread from heaven, on our journey towards the Father. In other words, Jesus walks with us on this pilgrimage, which at times can be rough as in the case of Elijah in the wilderness.
In the Gospel of last Sunday, the crowd asked for a sign that would show that Jesus came from God. Jesus replied by saying that he is the sign and the bread of life sent by God. This Sunday's Gospel begins by saying that the Jews complained about Jesus' claims regarding his identity. They knew his family, and they knew he was born of Mary; the son of Joseph. They could not understand what Jesus meant when he said that he came down from heaven. Jesus responds to their complaints by saying that those who listen to God will recognize that Jesus is the one sent from God. Those who believe will have eternal life. Jesus concludes with the central element of our Eucharistic theology. He promises that the bread of life will bring eternal life to those who partake of it. Jesus tells us that the bread of life will be his own flesh, given for the life of the world. In today's reading, we hear Jesus say again, as he did in last Sunday's Gospel, that he is the bread of life. We also hear Jesus add that he is the living bread. Both of these statements help us understand better the gift that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist. We celebrate this gift of Jesus each time we gather for Mass. We believe that receiving Jesus in the Eucharist will lead us to eternal life. The Gospel therefore reminds us that on our pilgrimage to the Father, Jesus is truly with us even on those moments we may experience difficulties. At moments like these, there is no need to worry as Elijah did even to the point of telling God he had enough suffering. Nor is there any need to complain to each other as the crowds were doing before Jesus. So what message do we take home? 1) Just as the Lord nourished the prophet Elijah with bread and water for his journey, so too Jesus nourishes us with his Body (the bread of life) and his Blood for our journey to the Father; 2) By being nourished with the Body and Blood of Jesus we find everlasting life; 3) You and I are challenged to believe that our communion with Jesus through the Eucharist leads us to eternal life.
©2009 John M. Mbinda